Aerial view of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

7 Most Charming River Towns In The Southern United States To Visit In 2024

Southern charm is not simply a stereotype. It is reality below the Mason-Dixon line. One needs to look no further than small Southern communities to see the charm in their scenery, historical sites, quaint businesses, and friendly people. Rivers are the nuclei of Southern charm, as they host many of the region's oldest communities and supply natural splendor. Thus, we have selected seven riverside settlements to inspire a charm hunt in the Southern United States.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Aerial view of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Aerial view of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

West Virginia is considered either the southernmost northern state or the northernmost southern state. Since it is south of the Mason-Dixon line, we are going with the latter and choosing Harpers Ferry, one of the northernmost settlements in the northernmost southern state.

Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, which is also the confluence of the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. This unique location shaped its history, molding it from a ferry hub into a military armory into the site of John Brown's slave revolt into the precarious prize of a Confederate/Union tug of war. Today, Harpers Ferry is a cemetery of its past lives. Memorials include the Industry Museum, Master Armorer's Quarters, John Brown's Fort, and the Civil War Museum. Those historic haunts supplement a multi-riverside oasis that also serves as the headquarters for the Appalachian Trail.

Natchez, Mississippi


What is a list of Southern river towns without mention of the Mississippi? The second-longest American river birthed many iconic communities, one of the first of which was Natchez. Now in a state named for the river, Natchez was founded by the French as Fort Rosalie before being ceded to the British via the 1763 Treaty of Paris. The Spanish assumed ownership two decades later, making Natchez not just one of the oldest but also one of the culturally richest communities in Mississippi. Many of its colonial buildings still stand. The House on Ellicott's Hill was built circa 1798 during Spanish rule, while King's Tavern was reportedly built in 1769 during British rule, but there is some doubt over that claim. Regardless, it dates to the latter half of the 18th century.

Naturally, Native Americans lived in Natchez long before Europeans, which can be verified by a trip to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. The 128-acre park contains three precolonial Native American mounds. After surveying several centuries of pre-American habitation, you can visit modern marvels like Choctaw Hall, a bread & breakfast built around 1836, and Rosalie Mansion and Gardens, a museum on a manor dating to 1823. Such ravishing antebellum retreats helped make Natchez 16th on the New York Travel Guides’ list of the 140 most romantic small towns in America.

Tallulah Falls, Georgia

The spectacular Tallulah Falls, Georgia.
The spectacular Tallulah Falls, Georgia.

Tallulah Falls is easy to fall for. This tiny Georgia town is on a section of the Tallulah River where six waterfalls combine for a scenic spectacle revered by tourists. The section is called Tallulah Gorge, which is roughly two miles long, nearly 1,000 feet deep, and is managed as Tallulah Gorge State Park. It can be hiked and biked, as well as viewed from an 80-foot-high suspension bridge, but a maximum of 100 permits to visit the floor of the gorge are handed out each day. On busy days, such as when the gorge's luxuriant foliage changes color in the fall, these permits run out in the early morning. After getting in at the ground floor of the gorge, visitors can gorge themselves at Tallulah Adventures & The Edge Cafe and grab a souvenir from The General Store.

Augusta, Kentucky

O'Neill Landing along the Ohio River in Augusta, Kentucky
O'Neill Landing along the Ohio River in Augusta, Kentucky. Image credit: J. Stephen Conn via

The less populated but more picturesque Augusta of the South, Augusta, Kentucky, has just 1,000 residents but 1,000 reasons to visit. First is the Ohio River, which runs along the town and provides amazing views plus fun activities like fishing, boating, and taking one of the oldest ferry services in Kentucky. Lining the river are myriad commercial haunts such as Beehive Augusta Tavern, The Rosemary Clooney House, and the Augusta Distillery, which makes the best bourbon in the world as per the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Lastly, Augusta straddles the Ohio border, so you can experience both the North and South from this riverside community.

Stuart, Florida

Coastline view at Stuart Rocks Beach in Stuart, Florida
Coastline view at Stuart Rocks Beach in Stuart, Florida.

Stuart is on the St. Lucie River, which is technically an estuary since it flows from the Atlantic Ocean. However, it became connected to the ocean only when residents dug an inlet in the late 19th century. St. Lucie and Stuart are part of the larger Indian River Lagoon, which is said to be the most biologically diverse estuary in North America. Some 2,200 species of animals and 2,100 species of plants inhabit the area. Arguably, the most charming Stuart species are sea turtles, which you can see captive at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center or wild on the beaches during nesting season. Humans are the second-most spectacular species in Stuart, as they built historic sites like the Stuart Heritage Museum and businesses like Stuart Boathouse that attract thousands of other humans during tourist season.

Magnolia Springs, Alabama

A kayaker in the river in Magnolia Springs, Alabama
A kayaker in the river in Magnolia Springs, Alabama. Image credit: H. Michael Miley via

The Magnolia River runs through the namesake town of Magnolia Springs in extreme southern Alabama. Like most riverside communities, Magnolia Springs relies on its river for commerce and entertainment. But unlike every other community in America, Magnolia Springs relies on its river for year-round mail delivery.

The town is considered the only residential place in America with year-round USPS water delivery. That means residents get their mail by motorboat, a system that has been in place for over 100 years. On land, Magnolia Springs is equally charming. Oaks with sprawling, storybook-style limbs have created a canopy called the Tunnel Of Trees over aptly titled Oak Street. Attractions shaded by the twisted trees include Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast and St Paul's Episcopal Chapel.

Wimberley, Texas

Colorful Cackleberry shop with artwork on display
Colorful Cackleberry shop with artwork on display in Wimberley, Texas. Image credit: Fotoluminate LLC -

Wimberley is a central Texas community built around the Blanco River and Cypress Creek. The latter flows into Blue Hole Regional Park, an in-town oasis centered by the titular blue-hued swimming hole. Just outside of town is another improbable oasis fed by Cypress Creek. It is called Jacob's Well Natural Area and contains an artesian spring and arguably the longest underwater cave in Texas.

In between the glistening holes, Wimberley shines with commercial attractions like EmilyAnn Theatre, 7A Ranch, Cowboy Museum, Art on 12, The Leaning Pear, and CreekHouse Kitchen & Bar.

The Southern United States, while already famous for its charm, is most charming around rivers. These waterways inject history, scenery, vitality, and industry into their companion communities. Prime examples are Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Natchez, Mississippi; Tallulah Falls, Georgia; Augusta, Kentucky; Stuart, Florida; Magnolia Springs, Alabama; and Wimberley, Texas. But do not take our word for it. Discover these Southern charms for yourself.

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